Florida House Signs Off on Seminole Compact

It looks like this compact with the Seminoles is going to happen. With a 74-39 vote, the compact passed through the House on Monday. The Florida Senate has already approved the compact with a 29-9 vote. Now all that’s left is for Governor Charlie Crist to sign off and then it’s off to the federal Department of Interior, who oversees all state-tribal gambling compacts in the U.S.

And the good news is that Crist has already said that he will sign the compact despite the fact that the Seminole’s payments will no longer go to education—something that Crist was strongly in favor of. To make the Legislature happy the money is now going into the state’s general revenue fund. This is disappointing because the education of Florida’s children should have come first.

In the next fiscal year this compact will put $435 million into the state’s budget, which is much in need of the money.

The compact will allow the Seminoles to have blackjack in their casinos. Originally the tribe wanted blackjack in all seven of their casinos, but they compromised with the deal that blackjack would be allowed at five of their casinos. The Seminoles will also have the full market on Vegas-style slot machines, except in Broward and Miami-Dade counties because voters in those counties had already approved those games.

But not everyone is happy to see the Seminoles get their blackjack.

The pari-mutuels are one such group. They feel that with the Seminoles having the only blackjack tables and the almost monopoly on the Vegas-style slots will leave the tracks unable to compete. However, the compact allows pari-mutuels to extended hours and offer higher poker limits.

Other opponents include the religious conservatives who worry about the morals of the citizens of Florida. Rep. Charles Van Zant is quoted saying that the compact “is evil and brings evil upon Floridians” and that “it damages our faith, our families and our freedoms.”

But what he is failing to see is that the allowance of blackjack and the Vegas-style slots will provide a boost to gambling tourism—and this is a state that doesn’t have a state income tax because of its tourism.

Florida also has extensive gambling offerings, proving that residents are okay with gambling. Florida is home to eight Indian casinos, a state Lottery with 13,000 retailers, gambling cruises and twenty seven pari-mutuels.

With all the gambling that is done in Florida it is about time that some of that money be returned to the state to support it, even if it isn’t going into education. The pari-mutuels and religious conservatives had better get prepared because it looks like blackjack is going to be legal in Florida.